Sidetracked a bit?

Taking a bit of a side journey into another one of my SCA passions: court pageantry and heraldry, and then as a part of that, ceremonies.  As a herald, I love looking at ceremonies.  I find that they bring so much of the medieval aesthetic and yes, even a bit of the mystique and drama to the game that we all play.

With my persona being fairly early period for the SCA (6th century Byzantine), I find that sometimes the standard ceremonies don’t quite do it for me.  The Romans, both Eastern and Western, were totally about pomp and circumstance.  I adore pomp and circumstance.  I love it.  Banners, music, jugglers, dancing, really neat clothes . . . yep.  I love pomp and circumstance.

So, I started thinking about what a ceremony would look like in the eyes of my persona.  What would the oaths look like, that sort of thing.  And then I found this.  Take a look here.  (Source, btw, is The Byzantines, edited by Guglielmo Cavallo.  So want this book.  The oath is found on page 203.)

Quick background – this was given in writing (non scripta non est?) to the royals beginning in the fifth century, and then the document remained in the palace archives and listed in a register.  It was required of all high officials of the court, and dignitaries of the empire.  Each new functionary was required to swear the oath prior to investiture.  There’s a thing, where, in the 14th c, the provincial governors would gather together at the death of an emperor, resign, and then in front of the new emperor would swear the oath.

Seriously, for a culture that is all backstabbing and intrigues, they were serious about their oaths and getting everything in writing.

So, here’s the period one:

I swear by All-Powerful God, by his only son Jesus Christ our God, by the Holy Spirit, by Mary the saintly and glorious mother of God, forever a virgin, by the four Gospels which I am holding in my hands, by the holy archangels Michael and Gabriel, that I will maintain a pure conscience with regard to our very divine and pious masters Justinian and his wife Theodora, and that I will render them loyal service in the exercise of the duties that have been given to me through their piety; I will willingly accept all pain and all fatigue resulting from the office they have conferred upon me in the interest of the empire and the state.  I am in communion with the holy Catholic and apostolic Church of God; in no form and at no moment will I oppose it, not will I permit anyone to do so, insofar as I am able to prevent it.  I do also swear that I have truly given nothing to anyone nor will give anything for the position that has been conferred upon me or to obtain a patronage, that I have neither promised nor agreed to send anything at all from the provinces in order to obtain the support of the emperor, nor to the very glorious prefects, nor to other famous people who govern the administration, nor to their entourage, nor to anyone else, but that I have been granted my position virtually without salary and can thus appear pure in the eyes of the subjects of our very holy emperors and am content with the sum that has been granted me by the state.

Byzantines?  Wordy?  NAH.  (side note.  I love that both Michael AND Gabriel are mentioned.  This is great news for my encaustic project.)  Now, clearly because this is both a sacred and a secular rite as it was done in period, it may make most Scadians cringe a little with the heavy invocation and swearing to God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Gospels, Michael, AND Gabriel, it really can cause issues there.  However, here’s the one I’ve sort of cobbled together from this one to be a little more SCA-friendly, that is not so heavy on the religious end.  I think it works.

I swear that I, _________ will maintain a pure conscience with regard to our very divine and pious masters, King ________ and his wife Queen _________,
and that I will render them loyal service in the exercise of the duties that have been given to me through their piety;
I will willingly accept all pain and all fatigue resulting from the office they have conferred upon me in the interest of the empire and the state.
I am in compliance with laws of the Kingdom of __________; in no form and at no moment will I oppose them, nor will I permit anyone to do so, insofar as I am able to prevent it.
I do also swear that I have truly given nothing to anyone nor will give anything for the position that has been conferred upon me or to obtain a patronage,
that I have neither promised nor agreed to send anything at all from the provinces in order to obtain the support of the emperor, nor to the very glorious prefects, nor to other famous people who govern the administration, nor to their entourage, nor to anyone else,
but that I have been granted my position virtually without salary and can thus appear pure in the eyes of the subjects of our very holy emperors, and am content with the sum that has been granted me by the state.

So, yeah.  Should I ever need to write a ceremony for someone who is Byzantine, I will totally take a look at this one.  It’s so cool.

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About Konstantia Kaloethina

I belong to the Society for Creative Anachronism, and there, I'm known as Konstantia Kaloethina, an Eastern Roman (Byzantinian) woman of the sixth century from Constantinople. I am proteged to Master Gabriel andvaka Kjotvason, and apprenticed to Mistress Bess Darnley. I'm an American of Irish, German, Burgundian, and Norwegian descent. I share Harry Potter's birthdate (July 31st, 1983). I typically score as INTJ (Myers-Briggs), and as a confirmed Five with a Four wing "Iconoclast" (Enneagram) type, with strong scores in Musical, Visual/Spatial, and Intrapersonal on the Multiple Intelligences test.
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3 Responses to Sidetracked a bit?

  1. mrsipstenu says:

    I love what you've done with the original. However, I'd suggest very small further edits:

    1. “our very divine and pious masters, King ________ and his wife Queen _________,” –> “our wise and thoughtful sovereigns, King ________ and Queen ________.”

    2. “the duties that have been given to me through their piety” –> “the duties that have been given me through their graciousness.”

    3. “empire” –> “state.” And also “emperor” –> “monarch.” (That one's not religious, but since we don't have any kings that rule more than one kingdom, we don't have empires. Sadly.)

    4. “our very holy emperors” –> “our monarchs” or “our very highly esteemed monarchs.”

    Like

  2. mrsipstenu says:

    Er, that is to say: because “holy” has very specific religious meaning, as does “pious,” and especially “divine.”

    Like

  3. Konstantia says:

    While I understand your intent, I respectfully do not agree with the edits and here's why.

    I'm looking through this with the lens of a Byzantine persona would at their ruling couple. If, at that time, a king had chosen to style himself as an emperor, whether it was an empire or not (look at Charlemagne, who styled himself as an emperor, even though the Holy Roman Empire was neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire), they were called that, because unlike in the SCA, absolute power, yo.

    Furthermore, changing the text changes the meaning entirely. Again, I'm (me, the mundane self, not me, the persona self) looking at this through the High Persona lens. My persona is highly religious, and would believe in the entire idea of Divine Right of her ruler(s) to be, in essence, Divine (even though, in all actuality, they were not). This is a carry over from Western Roman politics and sensibilities, where the thought was that the Caesar was indeed utterly and completely divine.

    And in essence, holy simply means “set apart.” And as rulers, they are set apart. Changing piety to graciousness also does not work well contextually, because, again, as a functionary, it was generally a Good Idea to be a member of the state religion even if it did not suit the functionary's actual beliefs. (Perception and reality here.)

    For interkingdom anthropology, there is precedent here in Calontir for referring to sitting rulers as emperors. I am aware of one Cross scroll that was Safavid Persian in style that refers to one king as “Emperor of the Whole World.”

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